Decking is exposed to the weather throughout the year. It also collects dirt and debris between the decking boards. Regular maintenance will ensure decking lasts longer and looks better. What maintenance steps do you need to take to maintain a deck?
From dust and debris to fading and rot, decks experience wear and tear over time. Deck maintenance includes cleaning, inspecting, repairing, and refinishing your deck on regular intervals. Regular deck maintenance keeps a deck looking great for longer.
Deck Maintenance includes several smaller tasks, including:
Cleaning the deck
Inspection for and repairing rot and cracks
Refinishing and/or sanding your deck
By regularly cleaning , repairing, and refinishing your deck, you’ll extend its life and keep it looking great. Read on for deck maintenance tips for each of these points.
The cost of decking has many variables to consider. The cost of deck maintenance is primarily your time – just a few hours a couple of times a year, as well as a day’s work if you decide to reseal your deck. Deck cleaning products don’t cost very much, and will more than pay for themselves over time, as they’ll help prevent additional wear and tear.
You could also hire a decking specialist like Acura Developments to clean, repair, or refinish your deck.
At least once or twice a year, give decking a thorough cleaning job. The best way to keep to a regular deck cleaning schedule is to make it a seasonal job: On the first day of Winter and Summer or Autumn and Spring, put a note on your calendar to clean the deck.
As far as deck cleaning goes, it’s a little more complicated than just a sweep or pressure hose – different decking materials require different cleaning methods.
Timber decks should be cleaned with an approved cleaning solution. Check with Acura Developments to make sure you have the right deck cleaning product.
Start by sweeping the deck and removing dirt that has accumulated between the decking boards around the joists. While you’re sweeping, look for cracks around nails and signs of rotting timber. If the cracks are large or you see rotting decking boards, they may need replacement.
Wet the surface first, and then apply the cleaning solution. Apply it with a paint roller, a garden sprayer with an attachment, or a stiff broom. Scrub the surface clean and rinse. Ideally, you should clean timber decking in the morning or on a cloudy day, to avoid evaporation.
Be careful using pressure cleaners, as they can wear down the finish on your decking. It’s best to rinse with a normal garden hose instead.
If you have composite decking, do not clean it with a pressure cleaner! Pressure cleaners can damage composite decking and will void the warranty.
Instead, just scrub composite decking with a soft brush. If there are rust or leaf stains, they can be removed with a deck brightener that contains oxalic acid. Ideally, use a cleaning product made specifically for cleaning composite decking.
When you clean railings, start from the bottom up. If you clean from the top down, the cleaning solution will splatter and may bleach the lower railings. It your railing are long – more than three metres or so – clean a few metres at a time for the same reason.
After you have cleaned the railings, rinse thoroughly to get rid of all traces of cleaning solution.
If you have timber decking, here are a few timber deck maintenance tips that almost anyone can do themselves.
First, make a habit of thoroughly inspecting them at least once a year – during the summer months ideally. You’ll be looking for rot, loose fixings, and other wear and tear. By addressing these issues early, you’ll avoid costly work later.
In your inspection, start by looking for signs of rot. If rotting is in a small area, scrape it out with a chisel and apply a wood preservative. Only do this when the rotted timber is in a small area roughly the size of a thumb. If there is extensive rotting, replace the timber.
If fixings are loose, you may be able to tighten them. If this isn’t possible, you may need to fill the holes to give the fittings more bite.
Next, check the ledger, which are the timbers attached to the house, and the number one cause of deck failure. Thoroughly inspect the ledger to make sure it isn’t coming loose or rotting. Also inspect the joists, posts and other components of a timber deck. Anything rotting should be replaced.
Joists can also be subject to rot, and replacing a joist might mean replacing the entire deck – so try to catch any rot early. An alternative to replacing rotten joists is adding a splint. This involves attaching a splint timber to the joist with galvanized screws, 300mm apart. The screws must be long enough to go into sound timber, as rotting timber won’t hold them.
Finally, you need to check all railings are firm. Look for cracks around nails and screws, which will weaken the structure. If you see cracks, don’t panic – you don’t need to replace the timber. Use an exterior grade adhesive to plug the crack and the pre-existing holes, then drill a new pilot hole and fasten with galvanized decking screws.
If this all sounds a little intimidating – don’t worry. If you find rotting or split boards, contact Acura Developments to do you deck maintenance for you. They’ll also let you know if there’s any other major work than needs doing.
If you have composite decking, we have good news! Composite decking is much easier to maintain than timber decking. Even though the cost of composite decking is higher, the lower cost of maintenance can make composite decking cheaper in the long run.
That said, there are a few deck maintenance tips that will come in handy. Firstly, make sure you clean composite decking regularly – even more often than you would a timber deck. A clean at the start of every season is the best way to remember. As mentioned above, don’t use a pressure cleaner – use a soft brush in combination with a composite decking cleaning product.
As with timber decks, give your composite deck a good inspection every summer. Rather than rot, you’re mostly looking for loose fittings that you can tighten up, or for any other damage.
For composite and timber decks, the plants around your deck during each inspection. If they touch, or are close to touching the deck, prune them back. If they touch the decking or railing, they can cause mold, moss and rot.
It’s also a good idea to move chairs, tables and other furniture occasionally. If they sit in one position for too long, they can discolour the decking.
Sealed timber decking won’t last forever, and regular timber deck maintenance sometimes means resealing the deck. Depending on weather conditions, decking sealers can last anywhere from two to five years. Unsealed timber decking will fade and wear very quickly, so don’t let yours go without refinishing for long.
Refinishing timber decking is a three part process; cleaning, sanding, and sealing. Make sure you have several sunny days in which to start and finish the work.
Start by thoroughly cleaning the deck – more than you normally would! Start by clearing everything from the deck, and giving it a sweep with a hard bristled broom. Try to get in between the boards and remove any debris lodge in their – use a paint scraper for any stubborn bits.
Next, use a timber decking cleaner mixed with warm water and give the deck a good mop and a thorough rinse. As you’re going to sand and seal the deck, feel free to use a pressure cleaner. Now, leave the deck to dry for a few days.
During this time, look for loose nails or screws, and try to tighten them. If you can’t, replace them with larger, galvanized alternatives.
Most people don’t know how to sand a deck, so don’t worry if this is new to you. If at any point you don’t feel up to it, don’t hesitate to call Acura Developments. If you’re keen to do it yourself, here’s what you need to know.
If your deck is less than three or four square metres, you can probably get away with sanding the deck by hand – any bigger and it’s far too much manual labour! Sand the deck using 20-50 grit sandpaper, then vacuum or blow off any dust. Don’t forget the corners and railings. Do another pass with a finer grit sandpaper to remove scratches, then vacuum again. If you’re using hardwood timber for decking, you’ll want to start with as more coarse sandpaper.
If you opt for a machine sander, one option is a conventional flooring drum sander, but it’s likely to be overkill. You’re probably better off using a flooring orbital sander, loaded with 50 grit sandpaper. Use a hand sander for corners and railings. Vacuum the dust, then make another pass with a finer grit, and vacuum again.
How to maintain composite decking is simpler than timber, as composite decks don’t need sanding, However, they will still fade over time. If this happens, start with a thorough clean, just like with a timber deck, but don’t use a pressure cleaner. If you have any especially dirty spots, there are commercial cleaning products available.
Next, you’ll need to source the right composite deck refinishing product. These are essentially stains, although they aren’t actually absorbed into the deck like timber stains. Rather, they bind to the exterior of the deck. However, they go on like decking stain and have the same effect – they make your deck look great again!
Check with your composite decking manufacturer for a product that suits your deck, and decide on the colour you want. Then, simply apply the stain with a staining pad. While it’s not essential to follow the grain of your decking boards, doing so will prevent the stain dripping.
Most composite decking stains only need a single coat, and dry fairly quickly. Just to be safe, wait at least 24 hours before putting furniture back onto the deck.
Regular deck maintenance is important, but it isn’t a full time job, and deck maintenance costs aren’t particularly high. Most decks will be fine with a decent clean every other season, and an intensive inspection each summer. Of course, you should keep an eye out for wear and tear as it occurs.
Resealing is a bigger job, but most timber decking will only need it every four to six years. The key thing is to stay on top of your deck maintenance schedule, as this will help any decking material last longer. As well as continuing to look good, your deck will stay structurally sound.
Once you’ve finished sanding, your deck will be ready for it’s first coat of oil, or sealer. The ideal temperature for sealing a deck is 10-30 degree celsius, for the ideal drying time.
Apply a sealer (use one recommended by Acura Developments) with a roller or brush. A brush is generally a better option, as it can get into the grain of the timber. If you’re using an oil finish, a woolen applicator is the best option. Either way, always work with the grain, and don’t forget to seal the end grain to prevent rot.
Instead of one thick coat, apply two thin coats, letting the first coat completely dry before applying the second. If you accidentally trap insects or debris in the finish, don’t worry. Wait until the finish dries, sand it away, then touch it up with your sealer.